Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Non-Partisan Ethical Framework For Christian Voting In 2020

So what’s a Christian to do when it comes time to vote?

We are citizens of Heaven first, but we are also American citizens who have been given the opportunity and perhaps even the mandate to be involved. The Bible uses imagery of salt and light to describe a Christian’s spiritual influence; it’s easy to see how this has a pragmatic aspect as well. It's just not easy to see what to do when, as voters, we are balancing flawed people, parties and platforms.

I wrote a series of posts during the last Presidential election that covered various ethical theories that can be applied as one prepares to vote. I hope the process of viewing people, parties and platforms through different ethical lenses will bring voting clarity. As a Christian, I build my ethical foundation on Divine Command and Natural Law theory, but it's not as if the others don't have something to offer (the importance of virtue; the weighing of both the means and the ends, etc). 

The following links all take you to posts that referred to Trump and Clinton in 2016; apply as needed in this year's elections.

  • Virtue or Vice? (Virtue ethics). Which candidate or party do you believe will be most likely to perform the right action, with the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, and in the right way?
  • Commands And Contracts (Deontological, or duty-based ethics). Which candidate or party most values the social contract (the laws of our society)? Which do you believe is genuinely attempting to protect the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized in our midst? If you are a Christian, which is most committed to promoting God's design for human flourishing (love, justice, mercy, truth, etc.) and honoring God's commands for what a just society looks like?
  • The Greatest Good For The Greatest Number (Consequentialist or Utilitarian ethics). Which candidate or party do you believe has a better understanding of what constitutes the 'good'? Which is most likely to enact policies that will bring this good to the greatest number without trampling on the rights of the few? Which is most likely to defend those who are viewed as lacking utility?
  • The Categorical Imperatives (Kantian Ethics). Which candidate or party are you most confident will not try to universalize a principle that is destructive, but will instead live and govern within the constraints of the Golden Rule? Which values people for their humanity and not their utility, treating them as ends in themselves (with value, worth and dignity) rather than the means to accomplishing an end? Which is most consistent in establishing rules for others that they themselves follow?
  • The Overlap Of Natural Law And Societal Law (Natural Law ethics). Do the candidates and/or parties believe there are morally demanding Natural Laws at work in the world? If so, do they believe they come from Nature's God (objective, authoritative Law Giver), Nature itself, or from a social contract (common experience and rational consensus of the people)? Which candidate is most likely to promote legislation in which the Natural Law referenced in our founding documents overlaps with our ongoing implementation of human law?
  • Who Best Understands Your Rights? (Rights-based ethics). Do the candidates differ in their perspective on negative rights (what we can't do to others) vs. positive rights (what we must do for others)?  Which is more likely to limit their agenda to duties of non-interference, and which one is more likely to demand duties of assistance? Which supports the idea that rights are natural, universal, equal and inalienable vs. culturally constructed?


As a Christian, I see a lot of issues to which the Bible speaks. Justice is many splendored thing, and while some of these issues will be more prominent in the minds of Christians, all of them are worth considering. This list could be much longer, but I am trying to limit myself to issues the Bible addresses as part of what will characterize nations that walk in the path of righteousness (that is, right living in line with God's design for the world).

So, which candidate (or party) is most likely to do the following things:
  • Protect innocent human life from conception until death. This involves everything from abortion, euthanasia, and war to immigrants/refugees fleeing violence and persecution. 
  • Protect all life from abuse. This involves fighting against unjustified violence and fighting for all innocent victims.
  • Honor all people as image bearers of God.  There is no room for leaders or parties who mock, debase, or refuse to stand for the honor, worth and dignity of fellow human beings. "In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)
  • Promote just policies that help those in dire economic situations. Here I am thinking of quality of life issues. Who are the most needy among us?  Are we as a society investing in and caring for them? Our policies should neither punish success nor overlook the needy; they should promote generosity and discourage greed. A just economic system does not guarantee equal outcome, but surely it strives for equality of opportunity. 
  • Steward creation well. This is, in particular, sound environmental policies. This command to Christians is as old as Genesis.
  • Create genuinely just systems of justice. We need a court system that is truly impartial and not effected by race, riches, or status. God cares about justice. So should we. 
  • Do justice and love mercy. A nation whose laws are not honored or enforced will descend into chaos; a nation whose laws are not honorable or ought not be enforced is no better.  How do we exercise compassionate justice well? 
  • Protect religious freedom. This is freedom to practice religion and worship - or not - without unjust discrimination or coercive social policy. 
  • Promote marriages and families in which children flourish. We as a society have a vested interest in raising children in stable, low-conflict families for the sake of the children first and the stability of society second. In addition, we should have policies and people in government that generously help those who, for whatever reasons, are not in this kind of situation. 
  • Model truth, grace, justice, mercy and integrity. 

The most exhaustive list I have found of side-by-side comparisons of presidential platforms (for Democrat Biden, Republican Trump, Libertarian Jorgensen and Green Party Hawkins)  is at procon.org, "Compare 2020 Presidential Candidate Positions." There is also an easy-to-take quiz that will show you how you are aligning with this year's candidates (at least those four).

Isidewith.com has an extensive quiz about a huge range of issues. It offers the choice wof nuanced answers that you can weight according to how important they are to you. The summary includes not only national and state candidates that align with how you answered, but an overview of where it places you in the political spectrum. 

There is no party or person that is going to offer us the opportunity to vote with no second thoughts. We weigh them in the balance and vote with the awareness that empires of the earth will never align smoothly with the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, here we are, exiles in Babylon, and we seek the prosperity of the nation (Jeremiah 29:7). 

May we all have wisdom. 

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